The Norfolk Broads is a wetlands paradise, teeming with beautiful, exotic and sometimes very noisy, birdlife and home to hundreds of pleasure boats in all sizes, from two man dinghy to luxury cabin cruiser. The area is frequented by holiday makers that range from bird-watchers, to wannabe sailors, to families relaxing and spending time together. However, there is so much more to Norfolk than the water ways, and these other attractions are in danger of being overlooked somewhat, making them part of Norfolk's secret places.
The story of the Babes in the Wood is an old one, dating back to 1595, and telling the tale of a wicked uncle trying to have his small orphaned relatives killed in order to benefit from his late brother's estate. Handing them over to a pair of cutthroats to do the nasty deed, the uncle thought the job was done; however, the cutthroats could not bring themselves to harm the little children, thought to be three and one, respectively, and instead they left the pair under a tree in what became known as the Wailing Wood. Sadly, the babes died anyway, and near Watton it is possible to see the remains of the tree under which they are reputed to have passed away, known as the Babes Tree. The Wailing Wood has morphed slightly, and is now called Wayland Wood, a lovely wild patch of forest, well worth a visit, even without the dark allure of such a sad tale.
Another mystic story is associated with the ghoulishly named Shrieking Pits at Aylmerton, circular depressions thought to be the remains of Iron Age workings. These have remained over time, and are the site of another child murder – a man killed his child and then his wife, believing that she had cheated on him and therefore that child was not his, and buried the child's body in one of the shallow depressions. His anguished wife is said to haunt the site, wailing and shrieking for her lost child.
But not all of Norfolk is touched by ghosts and sad memories of the past; there are many wonderful and stunningly beautiful areas that can be explored, either with a guide or alone. Experience shows that it is fairly hard to get lost, even if you do wander off the beaten track, as you are bound to stumble upon a sign-post sooner or later.
The entire area of Thetford in Norfolk is crammed full of fascinating historical sites, beautiful views from the site of the old motte and castle (of which the motte only remains), and the 12th century Priory ruins. Thetford is also home to Thetford Forest, the largest low land pine forest in Britain. Deer, small mammals and a surprising array of rare birds live and breed in the man-made forest, making it a wonderful place to visit, breathing fresh, pine-scented air and watching out for a glimpse of the furry or feathered denizens of the forest. Please do be aware that a portion of the forest, designated Stanford Battle Area is under the aegis of the military and not open for the public.
The Shell Museum, Glandford is a tiny enterprise, privately managed, but packed full of fossils, shells, eggs and many more exhibits, both natural and archaeological. The church next door to the museum, St Martins, has wonderful examples of stained glass, and the nearby river Glaven is home to a wondrous variety of birdlife, including ducks which can be fed by visitors. A superb and relaxing day out can be had in this hidden treasure of Norfolk.
These are just some examples of the wonderful places that it is possible to discover by taking the road less travelled in Norfolk. You are sure to see amazing flora and diverse fauna, and discover forgotten architecture and historical sites, all set in some of the most beautiful countryside to be found in the British Isles.
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